What is a Mastectomy?
A mastectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove partially, or completely, either one or both breasts in women with signs of breast cancer. This is also performed to avoid the risk of breast cancer developing in certain cases as well as to remove the cancerous tissues from the breast.
Early stage breast cancer can be treated with either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy – where only the cancerous tumor is removed from the breast.
A breast reconstruction
procedure is usually followed after a mastectomy to restore the lost shape to the breast.
What is a Mastectomy needed for?
A mastectomy is basically needed to remove the cancerous tissues from the breast either as a treatment method or as a preventive method against future risk of breast cancer. A mastectomy may be performed on one breast (unilateral) or to remove both breasts (bilateral).
Mastectomy for breast cancer treatment
Mastectomy is one of the most reliable options for treatment of breast cancers, such as:
- Ductal carcinoma – Non-invasive cancer of the breast
- Stage I and II breast cancer – Early stages of breast cancer
- Stage III – post chemotherapy procedure for locally advanced breast cancer
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Paget’s disease of the breast
- Locally recurring breast cancer
Breast cancer prevention
The doctor might suggest a complete or partial mastectomy in case you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Prophylactic (preventive) mastectomy might involve removing one or both the breasts depending on the risk factors.
Certain carcinogenic genetic mutations or presence of breast cancer cases in the family are the main reasons the doctor might suggest a preventive mastectomy.
How is a Mastectomy performed?
A mastectomy is performed using several different surgical approaches depending on the size, location and extent of the cancer.
These are the different methods of mastectomy surgeries:
This surgical procedure requires the removal of the breast completely without disturbing the axillary contents. The doctor might also remove the first axillary lymph node if there is a risk of the cancer spreading to it. The doctor will also put a drainage tube, with a suction device attached, in the chest to remove excess subcutaneous fluid.
Modified radical mastectomy
This surgery is used to remove the complete breast tissue as well as the lymph nodes and fatty tissues. The surgeon will leave the pectoral muscles intact. This prevents the risk of the cancer spreading through the lymph nodes to the surrounding regions.
Also known as Halsted mastectomy this procedure involves removal of the total breast tissue, as well as lymph nodes along with the major and minor chest muscles situated behind the breast. This is more useful in preventing recurrence of the breast cancer in the future.
Skin sparing mastectomy
This is a more conservative type of mastectomy which requires making an incision around the areola (surrounding the nipple) through which the cancerous breast tissue is removed. This helps in preserving the skin of the breast and facilitates the future success rate of a breast reconstruction procedure
This is the preventive method for breast cancer
. The surgery aims to remove the complete breast tissue that is at a risk for developing cancerous growths. The surgery removes all the tissue from under the skin to the chest wall as well as around the borders of the breast. The glandular tissue, including the milk lobules and the milk ducts, are also removed.
What can you expect after a Mastectomy?
As most types of mastectomies are generally extensive in nature, you can expect to:
- Have your blood pressure and pulse along with the breathing monitored
- Have a bandage dressing over the incisions
- Feel pain and a pinching sensation along with continued numbness in the underarm area
- Be administered painkillers and antibiotics